Monthly Archives: November 2013

For Anyone Who Hasn’t Yet Read ‘Plastic’

  An email from my author pal Guy Adams, whose wife is currently reading ‘Plastic’.  This is what happens when writers get competitive. ‘I’m terribly cross with you. Debs is reading Plastic at the moment (before me I hasten to add). She’s become insufferable.  “He’s very funny,” she said on the first day. Which was […]

How Alien Is English?

Cultural differences are what make visiting other lands so much fun, and although they’re fast smoothing out on the surface (thanks, Starbucks) they still exist beyond cities. But we live in times of the cultural export, when everything must work on a global level. America has successfully exported itself as a brand value – we […]

Hollywood Stories

Having been bowled over this month by the sheer grandeur of ‘Gravity’ (even forgiving Sandra Bullock’s cheesy backstory) I was thinking about my natural tendency to swerve Hollywood movies. Certainly, I loathe the remakes and reboots and endless sequels – try the new version of ‘Carrie’ for a lesson in why classics should not be […]

With Respect, PD James, Your Writing Rules Are Wrong

Phyllis Dorothy James is, without doubt, the grande-dame of crime writing. At 93 and still going strong, she has just issued her top ten tips for writing novels.  It’s heresy (especially coming from a writer with a fraction of her fame and longevity) but I do think some of them are wrong. What clearly works for […]

When Hollywood Went To Europe

Europe has always gone to Hollywood and hired its talents out – but there was a brief period when the reverse happened. In the late 1990s Hollywood topped up finance for European movies that wouldn’t otherwise be made, employing some great directors in the process. Europeans rarely replicated big action in their popular films, concentrating […]

News Round-Up

As I zip around looking for fresh influences to write about, I make notes of what’s happening in the world. As a regular feature in my short story collections I would start with a round-up of news items I found funny/ tragic/ insulting. I continued the habit for five or six books. Here’s an mix […]

Film Freak Just Got Bigger

There’s an added extra to the forthcoming paperback of ‘Film Freak’ – an added chapter that wasn’t ready in time for the original hardback release, which offers up some final words on cinemas, censors, misunderstood humour, rural magic, the animated fantasy that died, scripts and movie stars. When I wrote ‘Film Freak’, I quickly realised […]

The Joy Of Not Understanding

Last night I was talking with a friend about Shakespeare. She had recently seen a production in Vancouver’s ‘Bard on the Beach’ festival, and had felt the need to explain the plot of Hamlet to her brother, who was unfamiliar with the play. To her surprise, he quickly got the gist of the play and […]

Tall Stories About The Founding Of London

Rounding off this week’s theme about the foundation of London, here’s the background of Gog and Magog, or sometimes Gogmagog and Corineus. They’re descended from mythical pagan giants. Their origins lie in mediaeval legends of the early British Kings. The story goes that Diocletian, the Roman Emperor, had thirty-three wicked daughters (I love the sweeping […]

Creepy Kids’ Books

Victorian children’s stories were the stuff of nightmares. As a child I inherited my grandfather’s books and was haunted by an illustration, ‘Karik And Valya Trapped In The Lair Of The Water-Spider’, which showed two miniaturised Russian children being wrapped in slimy webbing by a gigantic eight-legged multi-eyed horror at the bottom of a pond, […]